While driving across the US, especially interstates like I-90 you can see all the economic growth the highway facilitates. Everything from all the trucks carrying goods to all the tourist areas alongside the highway.
So I wonder. could an expansion of the Pan American highway, the worlds longest road system which spans 30,000 miles from Alaska all the way down to the tip of Peru, be the backbone for economic growth in the whole hemisphere?
I mean right now in the US one can get on say I-35 at the Canadian border and drive straight thru to where I-35 hits the border with Mexico in about 18 hours.
Already in the US and Canada and even much of Mexico the highway is well developed. Multiple lanes and safe areas for on-off and refueling. However it seems to be bogged down in areas of Central America where its still a 2-lane road where safety is uncertain plus a 100 mile gap where heavy jungles are in the way. Also in some areas periodic flooding stops traffic.
But what if it was like in the US so where say a family in say Canada, wanting to vacation in say Nicaragua, could just load up their car and drive straight thru to a destination (stopping at hotels, rest areas, gas stations and tourist sites along the way)? Or say a fruit grower in Ecuador could load up his truck and drive it straight to a market in say Kansas (which is along I-35)?
It is not a plan without controversy though. There has been talk of creating “super-corridors” throughout the Americas. These are essentially large swaths of combined highway, rail, pipeline and power transmission lines, as wide as several football fields. They would be connected to inland “smartports” where intermodal containers can be offloaded and processed by the thousands, much as they are from conventional seaports.
Many of the criticisms include:
Environmental (ie cutting huge swaths of land through the landscape)
Easy access for terrorists and illegals
Further exacerbate foreign offshoring (they have been referred to as the “NAFTA Superhighway”).
I for one, instead of building a wall between the US and Mexico we use that money to build roads and infrastructure in Central America which would create jobs there so the people would not need to immigrate.
It is my understanding that, aside from the challenges of geography, there will never be a road link connecting North and South America through the Panamanian Darien Gap, because it would enable the spread of bovine diseases through the unregulated movement of livestock.
But the OP doesn’t suggest improving roads and infrastrucutre in Central America; it specifically suggests upgrading the Pan-American Highway.
Historically, improving transport and communication links between developed and less-developed areas tends to increase migration from the less-developed to the more-developed areas, not to reduce it. Migration becomes easier, not just physically but also psychologically.
Winnipeg to Managua would be about a 3500 mile trip. Not really the kind of thing most people are going to do. It would be longer than driving from Seattle to Miami, and I suspect only a tiny fraction of personal travel between those cities is by car. And that’s with zero border hassles along the way.
I drove my car from Kansas City to Panama, 25 years ago, and if I remember correctly, it was paved all the way then, and allowed for normal highway speeds. So unless it has deteriorated in the absence of maintenance, it already serves its purpose as well as any road can be expected to. For a private car and driver, border formalities took no more than an hour anywhere. Suitable hotels in every significant town along the way.
I think casual glances out the window of your car while on a cross country road trip is pretty anecdotal.
Historically, connecting remote areas with infrastructure enables the development of those areas and encouraging migration to those areas. The Roman Empire’s network of roads, the Trans-Continental railroad and the US Interstate Highway system all enabled growth in the areas they connected.
A single container ship can have a capacity of 13,000 to 19,000 TEU (1 TEU = the equivalent of a '20 standard shipping container). The United States handles about 50 million of theses containers a year.
If a person drove 8 hours a day at 60 mph they could cover that 3500 miles in about 7-8 days. Yes, it would be a heck of a road trip but actually it sounds kind of cool crossing 6 countries in your own car.
And the distance from Dallas Texas to Managua is 2200 miles and would take 46 hours. I can see alot of people doing it if the road was safe and full of cool and interesting things to do along the way.
The old “Route 66” was 2400 miles long and think about how it changed America and that road was just a 2 lane.
The Pan-American Highway goes well past the tip of Peru … it actually goes all the way to the tip of Chile … I think you can drive in reasonable comfort from Barrow, Alaska to Terra del Fuego, Chile with only the ferry hop around the Darien Gap … barring any criminality by locals along the way.
My understanding is that building a road through the Darien jungle is something of an engineering challenge; steep grades and loose soils … and maybe not necessarily something the Panamanians want … after all Panama is a renegade province of Colombia and who wants a road for the Colombian military to come and take back what they may think is still theirs.
Interstate 69 is intended to be the NAFTA Interstate, linking Mexico with Canada … [giggle] … I’ll leave it to readers imagination to discern the symbolic value of such a numbering …
It does enable development of the less-developed areas. But it also facilitates migration from those areas to already developed areas. There is no inconsistency there.
Opening up sparsely-populated areas with under-exploited resources by developing transport links leads to the development of those areas, and also inward migration into those areas. But if you have already-populated areas whose populations live in relative poverty, opening up transport links will both speed development in those areas and facilitate emigration from them. Contrast the effects of opening up large areas of the US through the devlopment of the railway system (rise in populattion) with the effects, at the same time, of developing railways in Ireland and Scotland (fall of population due to migration to existing population centres).
I figure that like most things, it will mean pluses and minuses.
Back when the interstates were built here, some places became common destinations that weren’t before, and as well, lots of small towns which were once prosperous travel-through stops, were bypassed and faded away.
And it might just end up making it even cheaper and easier to transfer American jobs elsewhere.
Now just hold on a second, son. Interstate 69 was a real thing that existed as a north-south road in New Jersey (among other things, running through my home town of Clinton, New Jersey). Back in the sixties, that particular interstate was plagued by folks stealing the road signs - to the point that the road number was officially changed from route 69 to route 31. The officials never said why…